Review: Dead Cells (PS4)

Dead_Cells_PS4Bordeaux, France based developer Motion Twin’s absolutely superb Dead Cells ($24.99) is exactly the sort of game that belongs on a disc in a case with a manual you can whip out and peruse as you play. I’m tossing this out there because the game truly feels like one of those instant classics you want to come home from a long workday and unwind with. As in walking through your front door, kicking off your shoes, tossing your bag onto a chair and going through the whole ritual of opening a game case, popping that disc into your system (or game card if you’re a Switch owner) and settling in for a solid play session.  The game blends its influences marvelously and (as much as I despise the term) is indeed one of the finest “Metroidvania” style games to date. Actually, the developer calls it a “RogueVania” which is a bit better, but whatever – this one’s a must buy no matter what you prefer calling it.

(Thanks, PlayStation!)

In a nutshell, you’re playing a rather dead but reanimated (and excellently animated) immortal character who needs to survive a treacherous trip through a sprawling series of randomly laid out themed levels. Before you get all twisted out of shape thinking of games that get this randomization wrong, this is one case where the dev team nails it. When you die (and you will die early and often), the game sends you back to the beginning of the map you bought the farm on and upon restarting, you’ll notice the layout has changed but you’ll face off against the same enemies while retaining learned skills.  It’s a dash of what you’re expecting (Castlevania, Metroid, Demon’s Souls, assorted roguelikes and roguelites) with some nicely implemented dark comic touches that add some great humor to the game. No checkpoints means you’ll need to learn to survive by playing and replaying sections in order to die less (or not at all). But each death ends up meaningful for a few reasons you’ll eventually discover.

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INSOMNIA: The Ark: 8 Years in the Making Means a Lot of Sleepless Nights for RPG Fans

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From the inbox it came… and it looks pretty cool, I think:

 

(Thanks, INSOMNIA: The Ark!)

 

My current backlog is rather huge, but it looks as if I’ll need to carve out some quality time to check out Studio Mono’s INSOMNIA: The Ark, which is set for a September release on Steam.  According to its press release (continued below the jump… suspense!):

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Review: The SNES Omnibus: The Super Nintendo and Its Games, Vol. 1 (A–M)

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Get it from Amazon, or get it from the author himself with a some cool freebies (US buyers only on those), but just get it period if you’re an SNES fan.

Once again, I have the pleasure to plunge into another hefty, well-written tome by Brett Weiss and once again, it’s a must buy. Published by Schiffer Books, The SNES Omnibus: The Super Nintendo and Its Games, Vol. 1 (A-M)  is a solid 416 pages packed with Weiss’ personable personal reminiscences, recollections and remembrances (okay, they’re kind of the same thing, but I’m feeling a bit florid in my hyperbole today) on over 350 games for Nintendo’s stellar 16-bit console that, along with the Sega Genesis and other competitors, battled back and forth during the 1990’s for those hard-earned gamer dollars. Despite strong competition, until the Sony PlayStation’s dominance of the console space starting in 1994-95, the SNES ended up with a seven-year lifespan (the last officially licensed game was Frogger in 1998) and more than enough stellar titles to write a book about. Well, Weiss has written two SNES books (the second volume will be out at some point and I can’t wait to pore through that).

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There are also brief reviews from Weiss on the games he’s played along with other reviews and impressions ranging from short to lengthy and comedic to tragic from dozens of contributors that add interesting and sometimes multiple takes on certain key to not-so-key titles in the library.  I did a very short gargle-blab on one of my favorite games on the console, ALIEN³ that should have been longer in retrospect, but I think I wrote that close to the time (unbeknownst to me, surprise!)  I was about to be hospitalized for about a month, so I was a bit off my game.

A fine foreword by Bill Loguidice kicks off the book and there’s a nice page on the “console wars” that’s a miniature crash course in some of the frenzy of the era with game companies going all out to try and outdo each other with varying results. An interesting piece on emulation closes the volume with writer Alex McCumbers making the case for it in a clear and concise manner. But you’re buying this because you want to check out some titles you never knew existed, knew about but never saw (Hagane WAS available at retail – I got my copy at an Electronics Boutique thanks to the kid holding onto it putting it back and getting a cheaper used game instead) or just want to check out the assorted impressions Weiss rolls out in his amiable style. Recommended.

 

-GW

Review: WALDEN, a game (PS4)

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No, it’s not some new-age hipster ready-made, silly. Here’s where you start off the game. Now, get to getting those walls up before dark, buddy.

Walden, a game PS4Wait, what? Yes, there’s actually a game based on Henry David Thoreau’s autobiographical slice of life book and it’s pretty neat as well as quite educational on a few fronts. Developed by Tracy Fullerton and the USC Game Innovation Lab over a 10-year period, Walden, a game ($18.99, also on PC) rolls out events from Thoreau’s time spent up at Walden Pond near Concord, Massachusetts in a tiny cabin he built and maintained. It’s an “open world” game with plenty to see and do, but it’s also an initially timed experience where you need to attempt to accomplish as much as possible during each day. That means you can choose to follow the flow of suggestions the letters Henry receives during the game or simply go off and explore at your leisure, discovering experiences as you go.

Actually, doing a combination of both is very highly recommended as this will maximize the overall experience while filling in chapters from the book as well as other events that affected Thoreau’s life.  While the game has a few performance quirks, if you’re a person who likes “walking simulators” (a term I dislike, mind you) or “survival” games (ditto on the dislike thing) without worrying about zombies or other creatures chomping at your heels, this is going to be right up your alley. Granted, I’m going to gather that market is slim among most of today’s gamers. Nevertheless, I’d still highly recommend this if you want something truly different and amusingly enough, something to show off to your kids (if you have them) as an honest to goodness learning experience. Yes, there’s also a great teaching aid for the game, as it’s meant to be used in schools as part of curriculum in tandem with the book.

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Your humble shopkeeper in the game. Basically, he’s Tom Nook with even more vintage stock. Or: you’ll pay through the nose for those much-needed goods.

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Review: Bud Spencer & Terence Hill: Slaps and Beans

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“Once upon a time in the west…” er, wrong movie, but you know what I mean…

Slaps & Beans - coverYep, it’s here and it’s great. As a fan of old-school arcade beat ’em ups, Trinity Team’s excellent Bud Spencer & Terence Hill: Slaps and Beans ($19.99) does exactly what its meant to do and does it with a ton of love (and many slaps and beans). I’ll give those of you scratching your heads a second to look up some of the duo’s films (here you go) and admit that for some of you, they may not be your to your taste (which means you need to watch a few and become a convert to their brand of international slapstick).

The game is an absurd amount of fun as a solo or co-op experience with a wacky story line, mini-games galore and some really great music that’s worth buying on a disc if you’re a fan of what’s here. While it’s not a terribly long game, it’s one where you’ll replay it either alone or with a buddy because it’s packed with laughs and challenge on the harder difficulties. Personally, I don’t grasp at all people who only play an otherwise solid game one or two times and shelve it away, but such is the current state of gaming where hours seem to mean more than overall quality to some “gamers” out there. It makes me wonder how the deal with heavier entertainment like non-fiction books or serious documentaries. But I digress – here’s some gameplay to ogle from yours truly:

 

(Thanks, Me!)

 

I heard you laughing all the way across the internet with me. This is good. Continue reading

Review: Sega Genesis Classics (PS4)

Sega Genesis Classics PS4Since you’re in a hurry, here’s the short version: Yes, Sega Genesis Classics is worth the $29.99 just for the JRPGs alone, but you’re getting a whole lot of other okay to really decent to superb games for that price. Here’s something to consider before you more jaded gamers turn up your noses at this latest Sega compilation that yes, has most of the same old games you’ve either played to death in the past or just have little to no interest in. Every day there’s likely someone trying out a retro game of some sort and those who’ve never tried anything on the Genesis are going to be very well served here.

Granted, this collection is missing a few titles found on other collections (notably, the PC version which not only has a few more games, it allows users to mod and add other games as an option), there’s online play that’s not quite flawless and a rewind feature that can make certain titles too easy to beat. That said, as an introduction to a classic console, it’s quite the deal at the end of the day.

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Wait. If you leave the phone off the hook, you can’t call your friends over for some couch co-op action! Oh, you need to make more friends? Okay, then.

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Review: Bleed Complete Bundle (PS4)

Bleed Complete Edition PS4Hoo Boy. If they were a pair of cartridge games back in the mid-1990’s for the SNES, Genesis or any other console of that era, I’d bet we’d see Bleed Complete Edition ($27.99) pop up on a few action game of the year charts back to back. That said, both games can absolutely compete with today’s high action games thanks to tried and true great gamplay. Both titles are gloriously over the top, non-stop, throw everything at you and watch you jump insanity with seemingly endless levels, 2-player co-op, boss fights that will whiten your hair and replay value way off the charts.  There’s also a sense of pure unadulterated fun here that keeps things flowing through all the gameplay modes making even the easiest difficulty somewhat challenging for novice players.

Don’t let the simple looks fool you at all, kids. Both games will smack you around, lay down covering fire and drop all sorts of ordinance on your head if you attempt to take it easy. Badass heroine Wryn can take it as well as dish it out, but it’s up to your skills to keep her alive to fight another day.  The gal wants to be a hero and certainly has the chops, as you can see below:

 

 

Developer Ian Campbell (aka Bootdisk Revolution) drew influences from all over the gaming map, tossing elements from classics such as the Contra series, Gunstar Heroes, a few arcade bullet hell shmups and more. The game is also packing a very solid sense of humor right from the get-go. Wryn’s got a kill list full of bosses to take down (a Kill Bill reference) and the game is pretty much her doing just that while trying to blast or avoid all sorts of heinously cute kitties, robots and other very well-armed baddies, sub-bosses and bosses. In between stages, there’s a cartoon news show that drops in some amusing bits that don’t wear out their welcome and yes, give your fingers a chance to cool off before more mayhem begins. Continue reading

Earth Defense Force 5 US Trailer #1: A Bit of Wait Gain

(La la la, PlayStation!)

 

EDF_5 boxIt’s about time,  but there’s still no concrete release date for North America. To be fair, Sony has opened up pre-orders for the game’s standard digital and deluxe digital editions. But that 12/31/2018 release date is a bit questionable (games usually pop up on Tuesdays and I don’t think a New Year’s Day release date would be a thing). FYI, with no official launch date decided, pre-orders have to include a tentative date so potential buyers have a general idea of when a product will arrive as a download or at retail.  I hope this game rolls in before the end of the year, as it’s a bit crazy-cakes that a worldwide release wasn’t in the cards from day one.

That said, I’m also surprised I didn’t snap up the import version at this point, but that was a mix of finances not being where they needed to be and not wanting to go to the hassle of creating a Japanese PSN account to get DLC. Well, that and I thought the game would have been out already,  Ah well. I have plenty of games to wade through in the backlog, so at the end of the day, holding out for this one in English means I’m going to be going in totally cold and enjoying every minute.

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-GW

Review: Figment (Nintendo Switch)

Figment SwitchFigment ($19.99) is just about as good as it gets on a number of fronts. it’s visually charming yet quite surreal, a bit edgy in tone, perhaps a tad too challenging for younger kids but a total sweet spot game for those who appreciate solid and well designed indies. Did I mention it’s also got a great musical score and songs during some fights? Well, it does (another thing that makes it great stuff).

All its cranky antihero Dusty wants is some ice for his drink, but that rather quickly turns into a quest to rescue a fractured mind in a impressive hybrid of adventure, puzzle, and action game elements liberally sprinkled with wry humor adults will appreciate. There’s also a deeper psychological thing going on that lends the game a Psychonauts-style approach to storytelling as layers are peeled back and you realize the game’s got a serious side that adds to its depth.

 

 

Dusty (who looks like George Herriman’s Krazy Kat as re-imagined by Dali with a dash of Tim Burton) is accompanied by a super cheery companion, Piper, a bird-like creature who’s a fountain of peppiness. The banter between the pair is pretty amusing because at first, Dusty is annoyed by her constant reminders of his past deeds and sunny disposition. he doesn’t want to get to anything but his beverage and is mighty tiffed that his relaxing time is turning into a big deal that has him venturing into places where others recall his old good deeds.

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The artistic influences here are brilliant if you know your art history. Even if you don’t, the game is a total visual treat.

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Bud Spencer & Terence Hill – Slaps And Beans Now on Consoles

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Whaaaaat? Color me totally surprised, ladies and germs!

Huh. Just when I thought this was never coming to consoles, here it is and I’m laughing myself silly because… well, just look:

(Thanks, Trinity Team!)

Hey, it took these guys a while to make and I’ll bet a penny that’s it’s worth a load of replays like any other fun arcade beat ’em up should be, so yeah, it’s worth that price point whether you grab the PS4, Xbox One or Nintendo Switch version. As for those of you who don’t get the fuss, I leave this as a parting gift:


(Thanks, Pump Monkey!)

-GW